Microsoft Forms, Funds New Open-source Foundation

Microsoft has cofounded and is providing the funding for a new foundation aimed at bringing open-source and proprietary software companies together to participate side by side in open-source projects.

According to its Web site, the new CodePlex Foundation "will complement existing open source foundations and organizations, providing a forum in which best practices and shared understanding can be established by a broad group of participants, both software companies and open source communities."

CodePlex has for some time been the name of the site on which Microsoft hosts open-source projects.

The group is a nonprofit whose interim president will be Sam Ramji, who's currently senior director of platform strategy at Microsoft, in charge of the company's open-source endeavors. It's not clear if the move means Ramji is leaving his duties at Microsoft. The new foundation plans to hold a press conference on Thursday afternoon to provide more details about its formation.

A board of directors supporting Ramji is comprised mainly of Microsoft employees, including Bill Staples, Stephanie Boesch and Britt Johnson. The only non-Microsoft employees on the board are longtime open-source guru Miguel de Icaza of Novell and Shaun Walker, cofounder of DotNetNuke.

Ramji and the board will search for a permanent executive director of the foundation, which now only has a deputy director, Mark Stone, formerly of O'Reilly and VA Linux (now SourceForge), according to the Web site.

Microsoft historically has had a thorny relationship with the open-source community, but in the past couple of years Ramji's Platform Strategy Group has been trying to work more closely with open-source companies.

At the same time, however, Microsoft has continued to pose a litigation threat to open-source companies over patents it claims to hold for technologies incorporated in open-source software, including Linux. Microsoft has consistently and quietly been striking patent deals with Linux distributors. Some of the deals call for the companies to pay Microsoft to license patented technologies.

One case did go to court earlier this year, when Microsoft brought a patent suit against GPS device maker TomTom over patents included in the Linux implementation TomTom uses in its devices. TomTom eventually paid Microsoft out of court to settle the case, which Microsoft claimed was a patent case and not an attack against Linux.

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